An Interview with a Career Scaffolder
How long have you worked in the scaffolding industry?
I began working as a Scaffold labourer immediately I left school as a 17-year-old. I began in a small team of 3 workers working in a company located in Chatham, Kent.
My day’s work began at 6 am by loading the lorry before heading out for work for the rest of the day and this would be the routine work for many years to come. I must admit that at the start of my career, I found scaffolding extremely dangerous and dirty work.
It was not until an opportunity to further my career arose when TRAD offered me a chance to practice as an Advanced Scaffold Inspector and where I later moved up to the position of a SHEQ Officer.
Currently, I am working as the manager to guarantee Group Safety, Health, Environment and Quality. I work together with the Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) team reporting to the Group Safety Director.
How has scaffolding evolved since you began working in the industry?
While starting, there was little emphasis paid to the safety aspect of the business. There was minimal training being offered to scaffolders and the personnel would be allowed to go on with work without requisite support and convenience to guarantee safety. Injuries, ailments were regarded simply as “occupational hazards”.
With time, however, there has been great development championed by trade unions such as the National Access and Scaffolding Confederation (NASC), construction clients and companies like ours. With improved training and a rise in reputable scaffold hire, scaffolders now are well-trained construction personnel.
At a personal level, I am pleased with the professional and safety standards for our scaffolders and the greater focus given to reduce cases of accidents and injuries.
What do you think about the work injury statistics?
With the introduction of NASC Safety Guidance at SG4 in 2000, we have witnessed a huge drop in cases of Fall from Height (FFH).
To put it to perspective, NASC has recorded a decrease in 80% Fall from Height (FFH) accidents in the last 18 years and 46% reduction in the last one year alone as per the NASC 2018 Safety Report.
Before the enforcement of the safe working and training standards, Fall from Height (FFH) accidents were very common. Many of our peers know of someone who has lost their life while working for other companies in the scaffolding industry.
Fortunately, none of the member companies in NASC has recorded any fatality in the last 5 years in a row. As we speak, the statistics are quite commendable, however, we cannot afford to be contented and must always do our best to improve.
In your opinion, what are the major benefits of being a member of NASC?
Of course, there are benefits in being a member of NASC and there are benefits for clients who choose contractors who are under the NASC membership.
As a member, you have access extra funding for training, access to tax, employment and professional advice, accreditations such as in Safety Schemes in Procurement (SSP) to show the company is competent and adhering to safety practices and procedures among other professional endorsements.
When you select TRAD or another NASC member, you are certain of working with well-trained scaffolders with more than 50% blue/gold carded and a minimum of 75% PAYE.
The workforce is professionally guided and reviewed for adherence to competency and safety at work.
What is the greatest challenge facing the scaffolding industry?
Mentorship. The scaffolding industry has all the signs for specialised skill and trade. Bearing that in mind, the growth of the industry will hinge on the vibrancy and determination from a young set of professionals to cause a generational impact in the industry.
There exist a lot of potentials to tap into and mentor a skill set for the future but more aggression will be required to seek out a large group of self-driven individuals.
At TRAD, we recognise this and have employed plenty of apprentices. We have a serious team of mentors and ambassadors who work to recruit the next generation of scaffolders.
Do you think the jobs you have done over the course of your career have helped you become a better safety professional?
Each job I have undertaken has been a building block preparing me with vital experience and first-hand knowledge to get me where my career is today. For instance, when I worked as a Scaffold Inspector I witnessed both bad and good quality workmanship and that gave me an understanding of the need for quality training.